There Will Be Blood and Money
And a lawsuit. And many, many questions about the relationship between a local hospital and the world’s largest medical device company.
At the end of the session, during a question-and-answer period, Gossman decided that it was the right time to raise his concerns about the use of Endeavor. He posed a hypothetical question. Let’s say, he began, a medical device company approached a hospital and offered access to an experimental device, but only if the hospital bought more of its other products. What, Gossman asked, would the review board say about that kind of arrangement?
To outsiders, such a question may sound innocuous enough, but the doctors in the room instantly recognized the significance of what Gossman seemed to be alleging. If a hospital were to agree to buy more of a device company’s products in exchange for something it wanted — access to the trials of an experimental device, for instance — it would not only be ethically suspect, but could be breaking federal law.
Piemonte was incredulous that Gossman would casually throw out such an explosive accusation in the meeting. He turned to Gossman. Do you actually believe that kind of deal has been struck at Lahey? he asked.
Gossman nodded yes.
Less than two weeks later, on the morning of September 8, Gossman was called to a meeting with a handful of hospital executives and fired. He was not given a reason. After 22 years, his career at the Lahey Clinic was over, effective immediately. An administrative director and a security guard escorted him from the cath lab, past colleagues and patients and out to the employee parking lot. Because Gossman’s car was in the shop that day, the administrator had to drive him home.
Soon after Gossman’s departure, Piemonte called a meeting of cath-lab staffers. Gossman was no longer a Lahey employee, he said. For confidentiality reasons, Piemonte couldn’t provide many details, but according to an employee who attended the meeting, he told staff members not to gossip about Gossman’s firing — a directive that seemed to carry with it an unspoken “or else.” “It was like an earth-shaking event,” says the employee. “We were totally blindsided by it.” (Through a Lahey spokesman, Piemonte denies forbidding anyone from discussing the firing.)
In October, Gossman filed a lawsuit against Lahey, Piemonte, and the head of the clinic’s cardiology department, Richard Nesto. In the suit, Gossman made explicit what he had only hinted at with his question two months earlier. He’d heard that a Medtronic sales rep had offered Piemonte a deal that would benefit them both: If the cath lab used more Medtronic products, it would be selected to participate in the clinical trials for CoreValve.
In the suit, Gossman invoked a law that protects medical whistleblowers, and claimed he’d been illegally terminated for speaking out about the deal. He also argued he was entitled to at least $5 million because the hospital had ruined his reputation. “My career in New England, it’s over,” Gossman says. “Lahey Clinic has completely and successfully destroyed my career here.”